A common discussion on PF blogs is whether or not parents should pay for a kid’s college education. The discussants generally fall into two camps: Yes, we are trying to save for it now (though often they don’t go into why) and here’s how, and No, we think kids should pay for their own education mainly to help build their character.
We at Grumpy Rumblings will flesh out some of these reasons, and discuss why we think some of the reasons may be more or less valid.
Yes: Graduating without student loans is a great gift and can provide kids with a head start in life once they graduate. They will also be better able to concentrate on their studies if they’re not forced to work all the time or go into massive debt.
No: Kids whose parents pay may not take college seriously. They may be more likely to goof off or drink or skip class etc. College is expensive and parents should take care of their own wants and needs– kids can work or take out loans. Learning how to pay off college loans isn’t a bad lesson.
Yes or No depending on your perspective: Some of the differences in beliefs about paying for college seem to be in part class based. One potential effect of parents paying for college is that students can follow what they’re interested in in terms of majors without having to think about how profitable that major is. If you come from a privileged background, then being able to major in anything, even a *gasp* humanities major, is a benefit. If you come from a less-privileged background, this may be considered to be a waste. Similarly being allowed to experiment with different majors can be seen as a plus or a minus depending on the parent’s viewpoint. Is college a coming of age experience vs. career preparation? Is the goal to make the most money or to leave the world a better place? One’s view of college depends greatly on one’s background.
What we think:
We do not believe that the best way to get kids to care about the value of an education is to make them pay for it. The value of education in general can be instilled at home from an early age. And if it doesn’t take, then we doubt that forcing the kid to work 40 hour weeks is going to make hir any more likely to attend class. In fact, we think it’s going to make hir more likely to sleep through class if ze attends at all. If that’s the case, then perhaps ze should be doing something else besides going to school. #1′s parents paid 100% for her college education. #2′s parents left her with a reasonable loan load. They both took college very seriously, seriously enough to get into good graduate schools.
One thing that really bothers us is when wealthy parents refuse to pay at all for college. The ones who value fancy cars and exotic vacations over paying for some of the kid’s tuition. The problem is that when your parents are poor, you are pretty likely to get financial aid at some portion of the schools to which you’re accepted. However, if you’re rich, that’s much less likely to happen unless you luck into some pretty amazing merit or sports scholarships. That means a poor kid may be on the hook for 10K in subsidized loans after graduation, but a rich kid 40+K unsubsidized from a state school or upwards of 200K from a private school. Even if the rich kid has had more opportunities K-12, it still seems to be an unfair burden to be on the hook for full-tuition with four years of unsubsidized loans. Less wealthy parents should obviously secure their retirements first and their kids are likely to not come out with as horrific loan burdens precisely because of financial aid.
No matter what you decide, it’s a good idea to let kids know early on what to expect. I felt so bad for my friends who applied and got in awesome places but then had to do 2 years at community college because their parents figured Hawaii and/or a new car was a better deal that year than paying some of the tuition at Dartmouth or Notre Dame. On the other hand, knowing that I could go anywhere because my parents had been saving their whole lives opened up a world that would eventually propel me into a higher economic class. If I hadn’t known I could go anywhere (and given how little money we had growing up, I wouldn’t have assumed I could), I might not have aimed as high.
Update: Cherish the Scientist asks about her situation.
Do you think these reasons are valid? Where do you stand on the paying for kid’s college education question?